Thursday, July 31, 2008

In God We Sue

By now, you've probably heard the story of the Tennessee man who is suing his church for $2.5 million for injuries sustained when he fell and hit his head after being "slain in the spirit."  Here is the actual news story.

And while many commentators have dismissed the plaintiff's case, I'm not so sure that he doesn't have a legal basis for his suit.  While I haven't read the complaint (that would actually require real research), I can guess that his lawsuit is based on a negligence theory.  In short, he is likely claiming that the church breached its duty of care by letting the Holy Spirit in the church in the first place.  And even then, the church should have taken adequate precautions to prevent him from getting hurt.

And while this seems silly at first blush (and maybe even second blush), the plaintiff might have a point.  After all, from time to time, I see Benny Hinn on TV knocking out people like a young Mike Tyson.  (If you think I'm exaggerating, take a look at this video).  Almost always, he has two strong guys standing behind the healed person to catch them when they fall (or just as likely, to pull them to the ground should they not accept the cue to fall down voluntarily).  Even Benny Hinn understands that you can't employ the power of the almighty without regards to legal liability.

Of course, the church will have two defenses to this action but neither is completely satisfactory; at least, as far as the church should be concerned.  For one, it could argue that the plaintiff's injuries were not foreseeable.  However, I can't imagine that the pastor will be very excited about sitting in the jury box and explaining that a movement of the Holy Spirit in his church was completely unforeseeable.  "Listen, folks.  I haven't seen or heard from the Lord in decades and then, out of the blue, He just shows up one Sunday.  It was completely unforeseeable."

The other possible line of defense is the tried and true "assumption of the risk" defense.  In other words, the plaintiff should have known that attending church was dangerous in the first place and, as a result, he has no one to blame but himself.  Once again, I can't imagine that the other parishioners will find much solace in the new signs that will have to be posted in the church: 

Beware of God

Holy Spirit at Work

How's My Preaching?  Call 1-800-JOHN-316

With this kind of legal reasoning, it should be clear why I no longer practice law!


1 comment:

101 Reasons to Kill All The Lawyers said...

Sean,

God (who should be named as a party) could also consider the “Act of God” defence which is so often used by insurance companies to evade claims due to “lightening, floods and other natural disasters”, in fact insurance companies would do well to add “saving you from eternal damnation” to the list of “Acts” that God (and they) can get away with.

Paul Brennan